Much like Kirby in Kirby: Battle Royale, Midland’s toughest rival in the fight for my favorite song of 2017 just may be themselves.
Midland’s debut single “Drinkin’ Problem” got off to a fast start early in its chart run, but stalled once it neared the summit and ended up settling for a Medibase #1 (it peaked at #3 on Billboard). I’ve got a feeling this track will be one of those rare songs whose longevity defies its ranking (fun fact: Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullaby” was also only a #3 hit in its day), as it was a refreshing, unabashed throwback to the classic country sound of the 70s and 80s. So how do you follow up a song like that? The band’s answer is “Make A Little,” a goofy little sex jam that’s way more fun than you’d expect.
The production here an interesting mixture of both neotraditional and Bakersfield sounds, with methodical, hard-hitting (real) percussion as its foundation and a rollicking electric guitar carrying the melody. (The only other instrument of note here is the steel guitar, which is generously sprinkled on top for flavor.) It’s an uptempo, brightly-toned mix that generates a ton of positive energy, and it feels tailor-made for bringing people out onto the dance floor of a dusty old honky-tonk. It’s a great fit for both the song’s writing and for country radio in general, as there haven’t been a lot of artists plowing this ground in the last several decades. In short, it’s unique, it’s retro, and above all it’s fun as heck.
As far as the vocals go, I could probably just cut-and-paste my analysis from “Drinkin’ Problem” here. Lead singer Mark Wystrach is back with his effortless, earnest delivery, and he deftly pivots from the somber narrator of the group’s last single to the charming, playful character required here. (The upward inflections on the closing statements on the chorus are a nice touch.) “Make A Little” isn’t a technically-demanding song by any means—nobody’s rapping or breaking into their falsetto—but Wystrach does a great job selling the song, and the group’s harmonies sound as good as ever. Like I said back in February, “these guys sound good.”
I never thought I’d describe the lyrics of a country song as “campy,” but it’s the best fit I could find for “Make A Little.” The song is a sex jam at its core, with the narrator asking their significant other if they’d like to make out (phrased as “make a little [love]”), but instead of going in a sexy, sultry definition like most every other song on this subject, Midland strikes a tone similar to Garth Brooks’s “Let Lay Down And Dance,” and frames the foreplay as a fun, playful activity (which is a woefully underexplored angle—after all, isn’t the biggest reason people have sex is because it’s enjoyable?) The lyrics can be cliché, silly, and downright nonsensical at times (and sometimes they’re all three at once), but they establish a loose, lighthearted atmosphere that resonates with its listeners and makes them smile. (Also, the Alabama references feel more appropriate here than they would in other songs, mostly because this song actually feels like a song Alabama would sing.) It’s not going to move people emotionally like “Drinkin’ Problem,” but it will certainly move them physically, especially when combined with its dance-hall-ready production.
“Make A Little” isn’t a song written for critics, and thus it doesn’t quite reach the (obscenely high) bar set by its predecessor. What it is, however, is a good-time, old-school track that’s probably the most fun you’ll have listening to a song all year. Midland’s debut album On The Rocks hits store shelves today, and between this song and “Drinkin’ Problem,” it’s an absolute must-buy for me.
Rating: 8/10. It’s more than worth your time.